Wednesday, October 3, 2012

clueless hippie mom goes to the mall

Olivia turns 12 years old this week.  She told me she's excited to be 12 because, "it's old."  I know what she means. Suddenly, makeup isn't for dress up anymore; short shorts are more than cute; cell phones rank with necessary accoutrements like underwear and shoes; and skinny jeans...well, I wish I could take the skinny out of them.
A sure mark of this coming-of-age:  Olivia's friends want to go to the mall for entertainment--truly the moment I have been dreading for the long length of her short life.

I do not like the mall.

But I have a fine line to walk here (and incidentally, I have really big feet.  Steve likes to call them floppers.  Is it easier or harder to walk a tightrope with floppers?)

On the one hand, I'm holding the line.  No makeup and no cell phones. She does have short shorts and skinny jeans, but not because we bought them that way, rather, because she's grown so much in the last six months they've turned out that way.

So far, Olivia respects my decisions.  I'd say she's disappointed (about the phone especially), but tolerant.  I know this won't last, however, and when the day comes for her to push back, it won't help my case at all if she sees me as a cooky and clueless "hippie mom" who hasn't even heard of the store Pac Sun (When my sister, Laura, told me to shop there for Olivia's birthday, I said, "What's Pac Sun?"  Laura has mothered 4 teenagers.  She could only answer, "Lord help you.") 

I need some mall savvy quick.  Perhaps there's a map I could study?  When Olivia says, "Let's go to Pac Sun!"  I need to be able to answer, "Oh, no problem.  That's just this way on the other side of Hecht's Macy's."  I need to move with the alacrity and confidence of a hippie at a farmer's market!

Except I hate the mall. 

For one, the mall wastes so much energy.  Energy on lights, climate control (they crank that AC in the summer!) even electric signs.   Energy on the production, shipment and disposal of unnessary stuff: a foot massager we use once, another purse, or an expensive lamp made so cheaply it only lasts a year.  Energy on packaging: packaging that we then carry around in a bag.  Energy on the bag. Waste.  Waste.  Waste.

And don't get me started on the plastic at the mall.  Oh the plastic! 

And the chemicals.  I'm pretty sure there's nothing Bath and Body Works can do for me that I couldn't do for myself with a box of baking soda, a bottle of vinegar, a few essential oils, and an herb garden (and perhaps a little help from my friend at Musings of  Kitchen Witch).  Why pay such a hefty price to waste all those plastic bottles and rub nonfood-grade substances into our precious and vulnerable skin?

Clearly, I'm not much fun to shop with.  I rant; I mutter, and if you don't feed me regularly, I start to foam at the mouth--but don't even offer me anything from one of those chain restaurants with their centralized food distribution systems!

Nobody ever invites me to the mall.

Except now I have this daughter who thinks the mall is the coolest place ever.  I've only taken her there once, to get her ears pierced years ago, but now that her friends have taken her, she's got the fever.   

I still squirm about all that waste, but what I really need to worry about are the messages: messages about beauty, bodies, sex and self-worth.  Feeling pressured to shop at the mall for Olivia's birthday, I ventured into Abercrombie with my mother and found myself beseiged by images of bare-chested young men.  With shocks of hair hanging carelessly in their eyes and pouty mouths that begged for relief, I gathered they were verging on some kind of climax and turned to my mother with a surprised, "Oh!"  One young gentleman had his pants unzipped so far, I just may have seen a pube.  I considered getting out my reading glasses to check it out, but thought that might appear unseemly.   

The really insidious thing about all this is the idea that if you buy stuff, you can be sexy too.  This is how the mall turns shopping into entertainment.  With the low lights and the thumping music, Abercrombie feels more like a club than a store.  For admittance, just buy the overpriced clothing and carry it in a bag around the mall.  Then you too can show a pube and climax while looking good in a cami, a scarf and a pair of low-cut skinny jeans. 

I've been shielding Olivia from these messages as much as I can.   But that strategy won't work anymore.  As she confronts a consumer culture that tells her to look outward and buy stuff that makes her feel better, I have to teach her to look inward and find stuff that makes her be better.    

To do that, I can't be a clueless hippie who sits home with my "fresh face" and my hairy legs rejecting everything that entices her. 

No.  To do that, I have to put my big floppers in some trendy shoes and go to the mall.


  1. not the mall! no! no! no! the ode to capitalism temple?!?
    boy bands put me close to the edge!
    but now you've gone TOO far in foreshadowing!
    eh! help!

    1. oh yes. THE MALL. when the day arrives, i will come with you to hold your hand. a sign of true friendship, for sure. :)

  2. Ugh, the mall. I can totally relate. Malls have always made me feel a little uneasy and slightly dizzy. Something about the lighting and the air and the smells... department store perfumes and perfumey candles and nail salons... And you're so right about the waste and the message. Yet they do draw in the crowds... I guess I'm a clueless hippie too!

  3. Oh, great picture of Olivia, btw! :)

    1. thanks jennifer. the lighting and the smells get to me too - i'm glad i'm not the only clueless hippie around!

  4. Check, check, check and check on all this. Big feet, HATE malls, NO idea what Pac Sun is, would totally be looking for the pube. I better relish this time I have (about three years) 'til I have to find some fancy shoes for my floppers. Olivia being the smart gal that she is, will grow out of this mall stage faster than most (fingers crossed for you!).

    1. Hey Franny,
      I hope you are right. by then, I will hopefully have all this great advice for you about how we weathered the consumer storm. I'd say I'd lend you my trendy flopper shoes, but by then I'm sure they'll be so 3 years ago!